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Sunday, 13 November 2016

The 17th Battalion (Nova Scotia)

On August 6, 1914—two days after Great Britain’s declaration of war on Germany—Canadian military authorities authorized the formation of the 17th Battalion, its ranks to be recruited from Nova Scotian militia units. Two days later, the Adjutant-General issued instructions for each Nova Scotia militia regiment to select “not more than 125 men with officers” for overseas service with the First Canadian Contingent. On September 20, a group of 135 Officers, Non-commissioned Officers (NCOs) and “other ranks” (OR) from the 78th Pictou Highlanders boarded a train at New Glasgow and commenced the journey to Camp Valcartier, near Quebec City.

A full quota from the 76th Colchester Rifles joined them at Truro, along with a Company each from the 75th Lunenburg and 69th Annapolis Regiments, and small detachments from the 63rd Halifax Rifles and 66th Princess Louise Fusiliers (Halifax). A full complement from the 93rd Cumberland Regiment came aboard at Amherst, bringing the total number of recruits to more than 500 Officers, NCOs and OR.

The fact that three units—63rd Halifax Rifles, 66th Princess Louise Fusiliers and 94th Victoria Regiment Argyll Highlanders—were already on garrison duty at Halifax and strategic locations around the province significantly reduced the number of soldiers available for overseas service. Nevertheless, the Officers on board the train developed a plan to form a Nova Scotian battalion, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Struan G. Robertson, 78th Pictou Highlanders.

Lt. Col. Struan G. Robertson, OC, 17th Battalion (NS).
After arriving at Valcartier, the Bluenosers remained together, determined to form an exclusively Nova Scotian unit despite their incomplete numbers. Fearing dispersal to other units or the addition of soldiers from other provinces, the rank and file refused to complete their attestation papers until military officials guaranteed that their Nova Scotian Officers would accompany them overseas.

Politics soon intervened when Nova Scotia’s Premier, George Henry Murray, arrived at Valcartier shortly afterward. Murray met with the 17th’s Officers and offered them a choice—proceed to England as a “half battalion” or remain behind, complete the unit’s complement of soldiers, and sail at a later date. The Officers unanimously chose the second option and conveyed their decision to Premier Murray. Unfortunately, by that time, Murray had departed camp. The Premier responded that authorities had decided to send the group as a “half battalion” with the First Canadian Contingent, on the understanding that further recruitment and additional drafts would bring the unit to full strength after its overseas arrival.

Within three days of the Officers’ meeting, Cape Breton, Pictou, Colchester and Cumberland units raised the numbers required to complete the battalion’s ranks. However, authorities declined to provide the necessary transport, as the Contingent’s departure was imminent. As a result, the 17th Battalion sailed from Quebec aboard SS Ruthenia on September 30, 1914 with a total of 773 “all ranks,” approximately 300 under full strength.

Upon arriving at Plymouth, England on October 14, the unit made its way to military camp on Salisbury Plain, where its personnel trained as a unit for the next three months. Shuffled from one Brigade to another, no additional drafts arrived to complete its ranks. Military authorities attempted to “draft” the 17th’s OR to other First Contingent units, but the terms of the Army Act gave them the right to decline, as they had been in uniform for more than three months.

17th Reserve Battalion pipers.
When the soldiers refused to leave the unit, military authorities designated the 17th and three other First Contingent battalions—9th, 11th and 12th—“reserve units” on January 18, 1915. The four battalions formed the Canadian Training Depot and entered quarters at Tidworth Barracks, Salisbury Plain. The 17th’s NCOs and OR were then dispersed to other “First Contingent” battalions, replacing soldiers lost to sickness, desertion, or transfers to Imperial forces since their arrival in England.

Following the arrival of additional reserve battalions in March 1915, military authorities disbanded the training depot and established the Canadian Training Division relocated the training at Shorncliffe. The 17th proceeded to the new location on March 15, and was officially re-designated the 17th Reserve Battalion on April 29, 1915.

A kilted battalion that wore the Mackenzie tartan and possessed a pipe band with in its ranks, the 17th Reserve Battalion remained at Salisbury Plain throughout the war. During its first two years in England, the 17th absorbed several Ontario and Western Canadian battalions and received drafts from several others, while providing reinforcements to several 1st and 2nd Division units at the front.

In January 1917, military officials implemented a major reorganization, as the 17th absorbed the ranks of the 193rd and 219th Battalions—two of the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade’s former units—and was re-designated the “Nova Scotia Regiment.” From that point forward, the 17th received its reinforcements exclusively from the 1st Depot Battalion, Nova Scotia Regiment, located in Military District No. 6 (Maritime Provinces).

17th Reserve Battalion pipe band.
During the war’s final two years, virtually all Nova Scotian infantry drafts passed through the 17th Reserve Battalion’s ranks on their way to the front lines. The unit provided reinforcements for the 2nd Canadian Division’s 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles - effective October 16, 1917), the 3rd Canadian Division’s Royal Canadian Regiment (effective October 15, 1917), and the 4th Canadian Division’s 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders - effective January 1, 1917), for the duration of the war.

Following the end of hostilities, the 17th Reserve Battalion relocated to South Ripon on January 23, 1919. The unit was formally disbanded on September 15, 1920, and was perpetuated by the 1st Battalion, Pictou Highlanders, which later became part of the present-day “Nova Scotia Highlanders.”

*****

Sources:

“17th Reserve Battalion.” Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group. Available online.

Hunt, M. S.. Nova Scotia’s Part in the Great War. Nova Scotia Veteran Publishing Co., Ltd., 1920. Available online.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Remembering Private Angus MacDonald—Died of Wounds October 26, 1916

Angus MacDonald was born on October 28, 1888 at Havre Boucher, Antigonish County to Duncan D. and Elizabeth MacDonald. Sometime before 1911, the family relocated the nearby Mulgrave, Guysborough County, where Angus found employment as a trackman on the Intercolonial Railroad.

Pte. Angus MacDonald
On April 16, 1916, Angus attested for overseas service with the 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) at Pictou, NS. The unit departed Halifax on July 15, 1916 and landed in England ten days later. When the battalion was dissolved several months later, Angus was part of a large group of 106th soldiers who were transferred to the 26th Battalion (New Brunswick), a 5th Brigade mate of Nova Scotia’s 25th Battalion, on September 21.

The reinforcement draft crossed the English Channel to France shortly afterward and reported to the 26th’s camp at Bouzincourt, west of Albert, France, on October 9. Six days later, the new arrivals entered the trenches of the Angres Sector, west of Lens, for their first tour in the line. Upon retiring to Brigade Reserve on October 21, the 26th’s personnel commenced a daily training schedule.

On the afternoon of October 25, a group of the battalion’s soldiers proceeded to the bombing pit at Bully Grenay for a training exercise that involved the use of live ammunition. Angus was wounded around 1:30 p.m. when the bomb he was throwing exploded approximately eight feet from his hand, and was immediately rushed to No 5 Canadian Field Ambulance for treatment.

On October 26, 1916, Private Angus MacDonald died of wounds sustained in the accidental explosion and was laid to rest in Bully Grenay Communal Cemetery, British Extension. A subsequent investigation determined that a faulty fuse had caused the premature explosion.

A detailed version of Angus’s family background and war service is among the 72 profiles contained in “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917,” available at bantrypublishing.ca .

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Remembering Driver Thomas Richard "Tommy" Morris—DOW October 16, 1916

Thomas Richard “Tommy” Morris was born at Nerissa, Guysborough County on February 4, 1890. Tommy’s father, Richard S. Morris, passed away sometime after 1901 and his mother, Sarah Ann (Ross), left with several young children to support, married James Patrick Hanlon of Canso, another local widower, in 1906.

On August 2, 1915, Tommy enlisted for service with the 40th Battalion (Halifax Rifles) at Halifax, NS. The 40th departed from Quebec aboard SS Saxonia on October 18 and landed in England ten days later. Before year’s end, the battalion was reduced to the status of a “reserve unit” and its personnel dispersed to other units.

Driver Thomas Richard "Tommy" Morris.

Tommy was transferred to the Canadian Army Service Corps (CASC) on February 14, 1916. Two months later, he crossed the English Channel to France and was assigned to the Base Horse Transport Depot at Le Havre. No doubt familiar with horses from his early years in Guysborough, Tommy was assigned to No. 1 Canadian Veterinary Hospital, Le Havre in late May 1916. He worked at the facility for almost three months, before returning to CASC Base.

On September 4, 1916, Tommy was transferred to No. 4 Entrenching Battalion, which was in the process of organizing at Le Havre for service at the front. Having worked with horses in his previous assignments, Tommy was assigned to the unit’s horse transport detail as a driver. No. 4 Entrenching departed for the forward area on October 1 and arrived at Brickfield Camp, near Albert, the following day.

The unit’s personnel commenced daily work party assignments in the forward area on October 4. German artillery regularly shelled the area around their camp, as well as their work locations. Meanwhile, the unit’s soldiers worked at a tramway dump along the Bruay road and completed repairs to the Ovilliers—Courcelette road.

On October 16, 1916, the regular work party at the Bruay road tramway dump came under direct artillery fire. Tommy’s “circumstances of casualty” form described the ensuing events:

“Whilst [Tommy] and several of his comrades were standing together watching the shells fell [sic], a shell exploded amongst them and he was wounded in the right leg by shrapnel. He was given immediate attention and taken to No. 4 Casualty Clearing Station, where he died the same day.”

Driver Tommy Morris was laid to rest in Varennes British Cemetery, six miles northwest of Albert, France.A detailed summary of Tommy's family background and military service is published in "First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917," available at bantrypublishing.ca .

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Remembering Lance Corporal Clifford Ethelbert Tyner—KIA October 11, 1916

  Clifford Ethelbert Tyner was born at Port Hilford, Guysborough County on April 27, 1893. His father, Rev. James Edward Tyner, was born at Chance Harbour, NB and was ministering to a congregation at Port Hilford at the time of Clifford’s birth. In subsequent years, the family resided in several locations across the Maritime Provinces, relocating to Alberta in 1905 following the death of Clifford’s mother, Winifred “Winnie” (Shankle) Tyner.

Clifford enlisted with the 89th Battalion (Calgary Rifles) at Red Deer, AB on January 3, 1916 and was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal shortly afterward. The 89th departed Halifax aboard SS Olympic on June 2, 1916 but was dissolved shortly after arriving in England. When the 9th Reserve Battalion absorbed its personnel, Clifford “reverted to ranks” on August 24 and was transferred to the 10th Battalion (Alberta/Manitoba) four days later.

Clifford immediately crossed the English Channel to France and met up with the 10th as the unit made its way from Belgium to the Somme region of France. The unit arrived at Albert, France on September 2 and entered the Somme’s trenches one week later. Following a four-day tour. Clifford was evacuated to hospital with a severe case of influenza, spending one week at No. 7 Canadian Stationary Hospital, Havre, before returning to duty.

On the night of October 10, 1916, the 10th relieved the 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion in the front trenches east of Albert, following several days in reserve. Germany artillery guns shelled the 10th’s position throughout the following day, the bombardment reaching a peak at mid-afternoon. In its aftermath, the unit’s war diary reported five “other ranks” (OR) killed, two Officers and 18 OR wounded. Lance Corporal Clifford Tyner was among the day’s five fatalities.

As Clifford’s remains were never recovered from the battlefield, his name was later inscribed on the Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, France, erected in memory of 11,285 Canadian soldiers who died on the battlefields of northern France and who have no known final resting place.

Lance Cpl. Clifford Tyner's name, inscribed on Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge.
A detailed version of Clifford’s story is published in “First World War Honour Roll of Guybsorough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917,” available at bantrypublishing.ca .

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Remembering Private Peter Fougere & Lance Corporal Arthur Stanford Horton - KIA October 2, 1916

Peter Fougere was born on April 31, 1897 at Larry’s River, Guysborough County, NS. The oldest of Simon and Sophia (Petipas) Fougere’s three children, Peter was raised by his maternal grandparents, Peter and Sophia Fougere, following his mother’s tragic death after the birth of the couple’s third child.

Peter Fougere (right) & his sister, Sophia.

On April 31, 1915, Peter enlisted with the 64th Battalion at Sussex, NB. Transferred to the 40th Battalion in October 1915, he departed for England with his new unit on October 18, 1915. After spending the winter of 1915-16 in England, Peter was transferred to the 5th Battalion Canadian Mounted Rifles on March 15, 1916.

Pte. Peter Fougere, Larry's River.

Another Guysborough native, Arthur Stanford Horton, followed a similar path to the front line. Arthur was born at Canso on November 17, 1893 to Hiram Charles and Henrietta “Hattie” (Worth) Horton. He enlisted with the 40th Battalion at Sydney, NS on August 9, 1915 and accompanied Peter Fougere to England. Promoted to Lance Corporal shortly after arriving overseas, Arthur reverted to the rank of Private in the spring of 1916 and obtained a transfer to the 5th Battalion Canadian Mounted Rifles (CMR) on the same day as Peter.

The two Guysborough soldiers crossed the English Channel to France on March 16, 1916 and proceeded to Belgium’s Ypres Salient, where they served a regular rotation with 5th CMR throughout the spring and summer of 1916. Peter and Arthur were in the line at Maple Copse on June 2, 1916, when German forces launched a major attack on their section. 50 % of 5th CMR’s soldiers in the line that day became casualties by day’s end. While Arthur emerged unscathed, Peter received shrapnel wounds to his back and spine and was invalided to England for treatment.

Later diagnosed with “shell shock,” Peter spent several months recovering from his injuries. Upon returning to France on September 5, he rejoined 5th CMR as the unit made its way to the Somme region of France. Arthur was promoted to Lance Corporal on September 16, and returned to the trenches with Peter and their comrades eleven days later.

On October 1, 1916, 5th CMR participated in an attack on Kenora Trench, one of two fortified positions protecting a larger German stronghold known to Canadian soldiers as “Regina Trench.” While the unit succeeded in reaching its objective, fierce counter-fire and the failure of flanking battalions to advance forced 5th CMR’s soldiers to abandon the location on the following day.

Pte. Peter Fougere was killed sometime during the two days of fighting at Kenora Trench. His remains were never recovered from the battlefield. Peter’s name is inscribed on the Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, France, erected in memory of more than 11,000 Canadian soldiers who died on France’s battlefields and who have no known grave.

Pte. Peter Fougere's name on the Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, France.

Officials initially reported Lance Corporal Arthur Stanford Horton as “missing in action,” but subsequently determined that he was “killed in action” on October 2, 1916. Arthur was laid to rest in Regina Trench Cemetery, Grandcourt, France.

Lance Cpl. Arthur Stanford Horton's headstone.
Detailed summaries of Peter's and Arthur's family background and military service are among the 72 profiles published in "First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917," available at bantrypublishing.ca .

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Remembering Private James Richmond & Private John Berrigan Gunn - KIA October 1, 1916

James Richmond was born at Mulgrave, Guysborough County on September 29, 1891. His parents are unknown, although James listed a brother, Charlie Richmond of Tracadie, Antigonish County, as his next of kin at the time of his military enlistment.

Pte. James Richmond's name on the Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, France.
James attested for service with the 25th Battalion at Halifax, NS on November 26, 1914. He was a sizeable lad for the day, standing six feet tall and weighing 175 pounds. James and the 25th departed Halifax aboard HMT Saxonia on May 20, 1915, arriving in England nine days later. Following a summer’s training, he crossed the English Channel to France on September 15, 1915 and one week later entered the trenches of Belgium’s Ypres Salient.

Throughout the winter of 1915-16, James and the 25th served a regular rotation in the line. The unit’s soldiers received their first introduction to combat near St. Eloi in April and May 1916 and remained in the Ypres Salient throughout the spring and summer months. During that time, several reinforcement drafts reported to the 25th’s camp. John Berrigan Gunn was part of a group of 42 “other ranks” (OR) who arrived on July 23, 1916.

Born at Country Harbour, Guysborough County on September 7, 1891 to William and Barbara Jane (Hines) Gunn, John was the fourth of six children and his parent’s oldest son. He attested with the 64th Battalion at Sussex, NB on August 24, 1915 and was subsequently transferred to the 40th Battalion (Halifax Rifles) the following spring. John departed Halifax aboard SS Adriatic on March 31, 1916, landing at Liverpool, England nine days later. He was officially transferred to the 25th’s ranks on June 28, 1916 and reached its Belgian camp one month later.

Pte. John Berrigan Gunn (Source: Salsman's Homeland, Vol. I).
In early September 1916, James and John followed the 25th to the Somme region of France. The unit participated in the Canadian Corps’ successful September 15 attack on the village of Courcelette. Following a brief rest, the 25th returned to the line on September 27, with orders to capture Kenora Trench, a German stronghold located in front of Regina Trench.

The attack commenced in the early hours of October 1. While the 25th’s soldiers succeeded in capturing a portion of the trench, flanking battalions failed to keep pace. The unit endured fierce counter-fire throughout the day and was finally forced to retreat, more than half of its personnel becoming casualties during the fighting.

Private James Richmond was killed in the hours prior to the advance, while on a reconnaissance patrol in No Man’s Land. Private John Gunn went over the top with the first wave of attackers but was not amongst the retreating soldiers. Initially reported “wounded - missing,” he was later officially deemed “killed in action.”

Neither James’ nor John’s remains were recovered from the battlefield. Their names are engraved on the Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, France, erected in memory of more than 11,000 Canadian soldiers who died somewhere on the battlefields of northern France and who have no known final resting place.

A detailed version of James Richmond’s and John Berrigan Gunn’s stories is printed in “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917,” available at bantrypublishing.ca .

Friday, 30 September 2016

Remembering Sergeant Harold Edwin Barss - KIA September 30, 1916

Harold Edwin Barss was born at Canso, Guysborough County, NS on July 20, 1885. The second of Isaac Elnathan and Lucy Ann (Embree) Barss’ six children, Harold was the couple’s only son. By 1911, Harold had headed west, finding employment in Alberta. On June 8, 1915, Harold enlisted with the 2nd Regiment Canadian Mounted Rifles (CMR) at Calgary, AB.


Shortly after the unit arrived in England on October 9, 1915, military authorities reorganized the Canadian Expeditionary Force’s CMR units. Initially intended for deployment as mounted infantry soldiers, the static nature of trench warfare on the Western Front rendered such units ineffective and resulted in their reorganization into standard infantry battalions.

Four news battalions—1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th CMR—constituted the newly formed 3rd Canadian Division’s 8th Brigade. Harold was transferred to 2nd CMR on January 28, 1916 and crossed the English Channel to Havre, France the following day. Harold joined his new unit in Belgium’s Ypres Salient earl the following month.

Throughout the spring and summer of 1916, Harold served a regular infantry rotation with 2nd CMR. He proved a competent soldier, earning promotion to the rank of Lance Corporal on May 12, Corporal on June 9, and Sergeant on July 8. In early September, 2nd CMR followed the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions to the Somme region of France, where its soldiers first entered the line near Pozières on the night of September 11/12.

While 3rd Division units did not participate in the Canadian Corps’ successful attack on Courcelette (September 15), its soldiers played a crucial role in the next phase of Canadian involvement in the Battle of the Somme—a series of attacks on Regina Trench, the longest German trench located on Thiepval Ridge. Several well-fortified positions lay between the target and the Allied line, requiring Canadian units to advance toward their final goal in several stages.

On September 29, 1916, 2nd CMR was one of several 3rd Division units ordered to attack the first line of German defenses in front of Regina Trench. Fierce fighting raged for two days, during which time the unit suffering heavy casualties. As 2nd CMR retired from the line on the evening of October 2, its war diary reported two of its Officers killed, five wounded and one missing, while 50 “other ranks” (OR) were killed and 140 OR wounded.

Memorial Plaque, Central Alberta United Church, Calgary, AB
Sergeant Harold Barss was “killed by enemy shell fire, when in the from trenches in the vicinity of Pozières” on September 30, 1916. He was laid to rest in Regina Trench Cemetery, Grandcourt. In the aftermath of the battle, an appendix to 2nd CMR’s monthly war diary listed soldiers “mentioned for their splendid and courageous work during the tour [of September 22 to October 2].” Among those acknowledged was Sergeant Harold Barss, praised “for conspicuous bravery during the fighting of September 29.”

Harold’s story is one of 72 detailed profiles contained in “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917,” available from bantrypublishing.ca .

Photograph of Memorial Plaque, Central Alberta United Church, Calgary, AB, courtesy of Marika Pirie, Calgary, AB.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Guysborough Enlistments - September 22, 1916

Five Guysborough County natives enlisted for service with No. 2 Construction Battalion one hundred years ago today:


1. Thomas Ash was born at Upper Big Tracadie on May 4, 1897 (1901 census) to Thomas (Sr.) and Jane (Day) Ash. The 1911 census gives his birthdate as December 1898, while his death certificate records the date as January 1, 1901. Thomas enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion at Truro, NS on September 22, 1916 (attestation number 931271) and departed for England with the unit on March 28, 1917.

Thomas crossed the English Channel to France on May 17 and proceeded to the Canadian Forestry Corps’ Jura District with his comrades. In late October, Thomas “began feeling weak,” according to his service record. Hospitalized at Jura and initially treated for influenza, Thomas was discharged to duty but continued to feel unwell. Readmitted to hospital on November 21, he was diagnosed with nephritis (kidney disease). Following several months’ treatment at Jura, Thomas was transferred to Hoole Bank Auxiliary Military Hospital, Chester, England on March 3, 1918, where his condition slowly improved.

Discharged to King’s Canadian Red Cross Hospital, Bushy Park  on July 29, Thomas recuperated sufficiently to return to Canada, arriving at Quebec in late September 1918. He spent several months at Pine Hill Hospital, Halifax before being released on March 21, 1918. Seven days later, Thomas was discharged from military service as “medically unfit.”

Thomas returned home to Upper Big Tracadie, but later relocated to the Sydney area, where he worked in the local coal mines. He married Eleanor Gero at Sydney on December 14, 1926. Thomas never fully regained his health, passing away at Upper Big Tracadie on January 29, 1935.

While his death lists the cause of death as “dropsy”—commonly known today as edema (excessive fluid retention)—his previous medical history suggests nephritis as the likely cause.  Although military authorities were notified of his death, no Memorial Cross, Plaque or Scroll were issued as his mother, Jane, was deceased at the time of Thomas’s passing and he married after his military discharge.


2. Joseph Clyke was born February 14, 1899 at Guysborough, NS, son of Archibald and Elizabeth Clyke. He enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion at Truro on September 22, 1916 (number 931272). Joseph departed Nova Scotia with No. 2 Construction on March 28, 1917 and crossed the English Channel to France on May 17. He worked in Canadian Forestry Corps’ Jura District from May to December 1917, at which time he was transferred to the Forestry Corps’ Alcenon District’s operations in the Normandy forest.

Joseph returned to England with No. 2 Construction on December 14, 1918 and departed for Canada in January 1919. He was officially discharged from military service on February 15, 1919. According to the 1921 Canadian census, Joseph was living in Truro with his father, Isaac B. Paris. He later married and in the mid-1940s was living in the Amherst area, working in the local coal mines. By 1949, Joseph had returned to Truro, where he found employment with Canadian National Railways. No further information is available on his later life.


3. Lavin Day was born at Upper Big Tracadie, Guysborough County on June 30, 1898, the son of Harriet Eliza “Hattie” Day. Lavin enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion at Truro on September 22 (attestation number 931273). Unlike Joseph Clyke, Lavin spent his entire overseas service in the Canadian Forestry Corps’ Jura District, close to the French - Swiss border. He received a Good Conduct Badge on September 22, 1918.

Following his February 15, 1919 discharge, Lavin returned to the Tracadie area, where he worked as a labourer. While his service record contains no reference to health issues, Lavin developed “Bright’s disease—a term used at the time to describe kidney ailments—sometime after returning to civilian life. Lavin passed away at Upper Big Tracadie on November 20, 1923 and was laid to rest in Hillcrest Cemetery, Upper Big Tracadie.


4. John William Elms was born at Upper Big Tracadie, Guysborough County on July 22, 1888, the son of John (Sr.) and Alice Elms. John enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion at Truro, NS on September 22, 1916 (attestation number 931274). Married at the time of his enlistment, John was also father to two small children, a two-year-old daughter and an eight-month-old son. He spent his entire overseas service woking at the Canadian Forestry Corps’ Jura District operations.

John’s dedication to duty earned him a Good Conduct Badge on September 22, 1918. He also maintained a “clean sheet” throughout his time in uniform. Following his discharge from military service on February 15, 1919, he returned to Tracadie, where he passed away on June 25, 1959.


5. William Henry Gero was born at Upper Big Tracadie, Guysborough County on September 30, 1876, son of Thomas and Eliza Gero. He enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion at Truro on September 22, 1916 (attestation number 931269). At the time of his enlistment, William was married to Alice Day and had two small children, James (age 12) and Annie (age 7).

As with John, William maintained a perfect record throughout his service in the Canadian Forestry Corps’ Jura District and was awarded a Good Conduct Badge on September 22, 1918. Following his discharge on February 14, 1919, William eventually settled in Truro, where he passed away on October 8, 1945.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Guysborough Enlistment - September 21, 1916

Carmen Milward Croft was born at Guysborough, NS on November 19, 1896, the son of Rev. William Isaiah and Mary Elizabeth (Thompson) Croft. The youngest of four children, Carmen enlisted with the 246th Battalion at Camp Aldershot, NS on September 21, 1916. He rose to the rank of Company Sergeant Major prior to the unit’s departure for England on May 31, 1917.


Upon arriving overseas, Carmen “reverted” to the rank of Private upon receiving a transfer to the 17th Reserve Battalion. Twice promoted to Acting Lance Corporal, he reverted to ranks each time, to increase his opportunity to serve at the front. Finally, on March 16, 1918, Carmen was transferred to the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) and joined the unit in the field on April 3, 1918.

After almost five months’ service in the line—including the battle of Amiens (August 8 - 11, 1918)— Carmen returned to England for officer’s training, prior to receiving a commissioned rank. Initially appointed Acting Sergeant on August 31, Carmen was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on November 22, 1918. He enrolled with the Khaki University of Canada, London, on February 3, 1919 and proceeded to the Royal Technical College, Glasgow, for completion of a course of study.

Carmen departed England on July 18, 1919 and was formally discharged from military service on July 31, 1919. He subsequently settled at Ottawa, where he commenced employment as a chemist. Arriving in Vancouver, BC in July 1927, Carmen departed for New Zealand shortly afterward. He married Sybil Marion Martin at Auckland, NZ in 1928. The couple’s first son, John Martin, was born the following year. Two more children - a boy and a girl - later joined the family.

The family returned to Vancouver, BC in 1932, but relocated to San Francisco, California in 1941 and moved on to Hawaii in 1949. Carmen Milward Croft passed away at Sydney, Australia in 1955, and was laid to rest in Forestlawn Cemetery, Vancouver, BC.

Remembering Private Arthur Swaine - KIA September 21, 1916

Arthur Swaine was born at Canso, Guysborough County, NS on May 10, 1891, the second of six children and oldest son of Samuel Isaiah and Emily Myra “Emma” (MacLellan) Swaine. All four Swaine boys enlisted for service with Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) units. One brother, Edward, returned home as medically unfit. All three remaining brothers—Arthur, Roland Judson “Jud” and Benjamin—served at the front. None returned home to Canso.


Arthur enlisted with the 40th Battalion (Halifax Rifles) at Camp Aldershot, NS on August 14, 1915. The unit departed from Quebec City aboard SS Saxonia on October 18, 1915, its recruits spending the winter of 1915-16 in England. During that time, the 40th provided several reinforcement drafts to units at the front and was eventually reduced to the status of a “reserve” battalion.

In late April 1916, Arthur received a transfer to the 17th Reserve Battalion (Nova Scotia). Finally, on August 17, he was selected for service with the 43rd Battalion (Cameron Highlanders of Canada) and crossed the English Channel to France. Ten days later, Arthur reported to the 43rd’s camp near Steenvoorde, Belgium.

Within days of his arrival, the 43rd relocated to the Somme region of France with the Canadian Corps’ first three Divisions. Its soldiers arrived at Albert on September 14 and two days later provided work , carrying and wiring parties for Canadian units in the aftermath of their attack on the village of Courcelette. During the evening of September 18, Arthur entered the front trenches for the first time.

In the early hours of September 20, one of the 43rd’s Companies attacked and captured a German position known as Zollern Trench. Later that same day, a massive German counter-attack and severe bombardment forced the soldiers to abandon the position. One Officer was killed and two wounded, while 59 “other ranks” (OR) were killed and 73 OR wounded in the fighting.

The following day—September 21—German artillery heavily shelled the section of the line occupied by the 43rd’s “C” Company, near Mouquet Farm. The unit’s war diary reported 11 OR killed, 19 OR wounded and two missing following the bombardment. Private Arthur Swaine was one of the two soldiers reported missing and presumed dead, when the 43rd withdrew from the line later that night.

Arthur’s remains were never located. His name in inscribed on the Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, erected in honour of more than 11,000 Canadian soldiers who died on the battlefields of northern France and who have no known grave. Arthur was the second Swaine fatality of the war. His younger brother, Jud, was killed in action on April 14, 1916 near St. Eloi, Belgium, while serving with the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia). Their stories are among the 72 profiles contained in “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917,” available at bantrypublishing.ca .

Sunday, 18 September 2016

The Antigonish Cenotaph Project

For years, Antigonish native Bill Landry participated in the annual Remembrance Day ceremony, marching in the parade alongside his fellow Antigonish Fire Department volunteer firemen and standing in silence throughout the solemn event. While he recognized two names on the First World War cenotaph—Tommy Kenna and Alex Landry were his grandfather’s cousins—he found himself wondering, “Who are the others? What are their stories?” Even the details of his relatives’ military service were a mystery.
Antigonish's First World War Cenotaph.
With the 100th anniversary of the First World War’s historic battles rapidly approaching, thought led to action. A long-time “student” of local genealogy, Bill “recruited” fellow genealogy enthusiast Paul MacDonald and Jocelyn Gillis, curator of the Antigonish Heritage Museum. Within a matter of days, the trio expanded to a committee that included several others who shared their interest in local genealogy and history.

Fraser Dunn had compiled an extensive list of veterans from the St. Andrews area and oversaw the construction of a monument in the village, bearing their names. Catherine (Laureys) MacGillivray, a regular contributor to the Antigonish Heritage Museum’s monthly newsletter, also joined the team. Marie Terese Redican, a Pennsylvania resident with family ties to the Antigonish area, extensive genealogical knowledge and resources, became an important “online” contact. James Matheson, a retired serviceman and member of the local Royal Canadian Legion branch, also came aboard. This blogger agreed to assist with the research, particularly the process of extracting information from war diaries, circumstances of casualty cards, and available service records.


The “Antigonish Cenotaph Project” thus came into existence, its mission to research the family background and war experiences of approximately 100 Antigonish town and county soldiers who died in the service of their country during the “Great War.” The Project’s goal is to publish each soldier’s story in the weekly Antigonish newspaper, as close as possible to the 100th anniversary of his death. The stories are also posted on a blog—https://antigonishcenotaphproject.wordpress.com/—precisely 100 years to the day of each soldier’s passing.

During the war’s first two years, a total of five Antigonish soldiers died in uniform, two fatalities due to sickness. Their stories are currently available on the blog. Local fatalities dramatically increased when the Canadian Corps move to the Somme region of France in late summer 1916. From September 15 to November 14, 1916, a total of 17 Antigonish natives died during fighting at Courcelette and Thiepval Ridge (Regina Trench), France.


Committee members are currently completing research on the soldiers who died in 1917 and will publish their stories in the local newspaper and online as each anniversary arrives. Once completed, the committee hopes to publish the entire collection in a pamphlet. For now, you can visit the committee’s Word Press blog page and read each soldier’s story, published on the 100th anniversary of his passing. “We will remember them.”

Guysborough Enlistments - September 18, 1916

Three young Ecum Secum, Guysborough County natives enlisted for service with the 246th Battalion—the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade's reserve unit—at Halifax, NS on September 18, 1916. Their consecutive attestation numbers indicate that the trio enlisted together and were likely "buddies" at the time.


1. William Roy Fleet was born at Ecum Secum on September 25, 1897, son of Charles and Isadore (Whitewood) Fleet. Attestation number 1060093, William was discharged from military service at Halifax as “medical unfit” on February 16, 1917. No further information is available on his later life.

2. Murray Alvin Pye was born at Ecum Secum on January 12, 1898, son of Henry and Phoebe (Mosher) Pye. Attestation number 1060095, Murray listed his occupation as “fisherman” at the time of his enlistment. No further information is currently available on his military service.

Murray was living at 42 Maynard St., Halifax at the time of the 1921 Canadian census, but later returned to the Ecum Secum area, where he worked as a fisherman. No further information is available on his later life.

3. Charles F. Veinotte (Venotte) was born at Ecum Secum on February 17, 1898, son of Alden and Annie Veinotte. Attestation number 1060094, Charles was working as a “brakeman” at the time of his enlistment. No further information is available on his military service or later life.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Remembering Private Lester Conwell O'Hara - KIA September 17, 1916

Lester Conwell O’Hara was the fourth of 15 children born to James Alexander and Alina (Sangster) O’Hara of New Harbour, Guysborough County. The third of the couple’s six sons, Conwell, as he was known to family, enlisted with the 64th Battalion (Maritime Provinces) at Sussex, NB on August 31, 1915.

Private Lester Conwell O'Hara
Conwell spent the winter of 1915-16 training with the 64th, which relocated to Halifax in January 1916 and departed for England on March 31, 1916. The unit was disbanded shortly after arriving in England and its soldiers dispersed among several existing battalions. Conwell was transferred to the 24th Battalion (Victoria Rifles, Montreal) on June 28 and crossed the English Channel to Le Havre, France the following day. He arrived at the 24th’s camp near Dickebusch, Belgium in mid-July 1916.

The 24th Battalion was part of the 2nd Division’s 5th Brigade, which also included the 25th (Nova Scotia) and 26th (New Brunswick) Battalions. The Brigade followed the Canadian Corps’ 1st, 2nd and 3rd Divisions to the Somme region of France in early September, arriving at Brickfield Camp, Albert on September 10.

Four days later, Conwell and his mates entered the Somme trenches for the first time. On September 15, 1916—their first full day in the line—the 24th’s soldiers provided support to its three Brigade units as they attacked the village of Courcelette, the Canadian Corps’ first offensive action since arriving in France. Throughout the fighting, personnel carried bombs, ammunition, rations and other supplies to the front lines and evacuated the wounded.

Two days later, the 24th received orders to continue the attack on the German line, its soldiers going “over the top” at 5:00 p.m. September 17. The supporting artillery barrage landed behind the German front trenches, doing little more than warn the enemy of an impending attack. As a result, German forces successfully repelled the advance, the 24th’s three attacking Companies suffering 10 Officer and 320 “other rank” (OR) casualties.

While Conwell’s Company did not participate in the attack, he was among the soldiers listed as “missing” following the evening’s action. Battalion officials later confirmed that Conwell was “killed while taking a message to the Battalion holding positions to the right of his unit.” While his remains were initially buried in the vicinity of Sunken Road, southwest of the village of Martinpuich, his grave could not be located after the war.

Lester Conwell O’Hara’s name is engraved on the Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, one of more than 11,000 soldiers who were killed on the battlefields of France and who have no known grave. His story is among the 72 detailed profiles contained in “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917,” available at bantrypublishing.ca .

Friday, 16 September 2016

Guysborough Enlistments - September 16, 2016

Two Guysborough County natives enlisted with Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) units on September 16, 1916:


1. John Joseph Backus, born at Goldenville, Guysborough County on December 25, 1876, son of Joseph and Annie (Williams) Backus, Goldenville, enlisted with No. 2 Construction Company at Montreal, QC. John listed two daughters—Gertrude, age 24 years, and Maud, age 26 years—on his enlistment papers, and was employed as a “teamster and veterinary” at the time of his attestation.


John departed for England with No. 2 Construction aboard SS Southland on March 28, 1917, arriving at Liverpool ten days later. He proceeded to France on May 17, 1917, serving with Canadian Forestry Corps units in the Jura District, near the French border with Switzerland, until December 30, 1917, at which time John proceeded to the Alçenon District with a party of No. 2 Construction soldiers.

Returning to England with No. 2 Construction on December 14, 1918, he departed for Canada aboard SS Aquitania on January 18, 1919, arriving at Halifax six days later. John was formally discharged from military service on February 19, 1919 and returned to the Goldenville area.

Widowed following the war, John married Lizza Janette Ash, a native of Boylston, on December 6, 1922. No further information is available on his later life.


2. James Joseph Shields was born on May 21, 1880 at Half Island Cove, Guysborough County, the son of John and Mary (Rhynold) Shields. He enlisted with the 246th Battalion—the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade’s reinforcement unit—at Canso on September 15, 1916. He was married to Lottie Hurst, a native of Canso, at the time of his enlistment. No further information is currently available on his military service.


Following his return to Nova Scotia, James returned to the Guysborough area. Stricken with tuberculosis several years later, he passed away at Canso on November 5, 1931. His wife, Lottie, died at Canso on September 27, 1939.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

A poem in memory of the Battle of Courcelette - September 15, 1916

 Courcelette

by William Neil "Bill" Meagher

Village square, Courcelette, France (April 2015).

Early on an autumn morning
Facing famous Courcelette
Lay the Twenty-Fifth Battalion
In the trenches, damp and wet.

Far away from home and kindred
On the far famed River Somme
Here and there a man lay dying,
Stricken by a shell or bomb.

Men of every trade and calling
Of each Company formed a part—
Daisny youth and bearded manhood
From the town and from the mart.

Miners, Sailors, Farmers, Tradesmen,
From each hamlet, town and glen
Born of Nova Scotia’s Mothers
From a breed of manly men.

All alert and ever watching—
On the guard, both day and night;
Each one ever his part doing
In the struggle for the right.

Always thinking of the homeland,
In far away Acadie,
Of a mother, wife or sister,
Whom they never more might see.

On the high hills overlooking
All the country, down below,
In their deep concreted dugouts
Lay the ever watchful foe.

With artillery, commanding
All the plains, for miles around
Through which like a thread of silver
River Somme, its free way wound.

There were Saxons and Bavarians
In that Hun’s embattled host;
And the fierce and bloody Uhlans,
Whom the Kaiser loved the most.

Here they stood in close formation
Like a solid, human block
Fronted by the famous fighters,
Called the Troops of Battle Shock.

When upon the morn in question
Just about the break of day,
Word, the Twenty-Fifth was given
To get ready for the fray.

And they came out of their trenches,
Like the wild Lynx, with a hound,
And they rushed without a falter
Right across the barrage ground.

And they fell upon the Germans
Like an avalanche of hail,
And the Prussians bent before them
Like the grain before the gale.

And with irresisting fury
They assailed the faltering Hun
And before the day was over
Famous Courcelette was won.

Let the mothers tell their children
Whom they nurse upon their breast,
And the teachers tell their pupils
In the schools from East to West.

Hard at Courcelette’s fierce battle
An undying name was made,
By the Twenty-Fifth Battalion
Of the fighting Fifth Brigade.


William Neil “Bill” Meagher was born on July 4, 1882 at Mulgrave, NS, son of Maurice and Mary Ann (MacNeil) Meagher. Bill attested for military service with the 64th Battalion at Sussex, NB on September 15, 1915. He was employed as a “locomotive wiper” at the time of his enlistment.

Later transferred to the 25th Battalion, Bill served in Belgium and France with the distinguished Nova Scotian unit. On one occasion, Bill suffered gun shot wounds to his head and left forearm. He served overseas for the war’s duration and was discharged from military service on May 15, 1919.

Returning to Mulgrave, Bill married Alice Robena Carr and raised a family of six children. Bill was  harbourmaster and operated a garage and store in the local community. He passed away at Mulgrave on January 4, 1967 and was laid to rest in St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Cemetery, Mulgrave, NS.

Guysborough Enlistments - September 14 & 15, 1916

1. September 14, 1916:

James Adam McLane was born at Sherbrooke, NS on April 30, 1899 to Adam Dean and Flora Blanche (McCutcheon) McLane. James enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at Halifax, NS on September 13, 1916, departing for England with the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade exactly one month later.

After arriving overseas, he was transferred to No. 39 Company, Canadian Forestry Corps when the 193rd Battalion was disbanded, and crossed the English Channel to France with his new unit of May 19, 1917, serving with the Canadian Forestry Corps’ Central Group (Normandy) throughout the war’s duration.

While James returned to Sherbrooke after the war, he lived at Lomita, California and Meriden, Connecticut during the mid-1920s, eventually returning to Sherbrooke at sometime during the following decade. James also worked with Galt Textiles, Galt, Ontario for an unknown period of time.

James never married, retiring to Sherbrooke in the late 1950s. James Adam McLane passing away at his Sherbrooke home on May 3, 1962 and was laid to rest in Riverside Cemetery, Sherbrooke, NS.

2. September 15, 1916:

Thomas Herbert Chapman was born at Torbay, Guysborough County on April 3, 1886. Thomas’ father, Thomas Harrison, was born at Liverpool, England and was an employee of Commercial Cable Company, Canso, at the time of Thomas Herbert’s birth. Thomas Harrison married Eliza Harriet Cunningham, a native of Guysborough, NS, in 1878 Thomas Herbert was the third of the couple’s four sons, the second youngest of six children.

Thomas Herbert enlisted with the 162nd Battalion at Niagara, ON on September 15, 1916. Employed as a “submarine cable operator” prior to enlistment, Thomas Herbert also served with the 63h Regiment (Halifax Rifles) for an unspecified period of time prior to joining the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Several months after arriving in England, Thomas Herbert was transferred to the 18th Battalion (Western Ontario) on May 28, 1917, joining the unit in the field on June 15, 1917. He suffered a shrapnel wound to his finger, hand and right thigh while working in the line with a carrying party near Bouvigny, France. Briefly hospitalized for treatment, Thomas Herbert rejoined the 18th in the field before month’s end.

On the day following the battalion’s withdrawal from the Passchendaele, Belgium battlefield, Thomas Herbert was hospitalized a second time for treatment of trench foot. Invalided to England, he spent eight months with reserve units, finally rejoining the 18th Battalion in France on August 31, 1918.

Thomas Herbert, promoted to the rank of Corporal five days prior to his return to the line, served the remainder of the war with the 18th Battalion, returning to England in early April 1919 and to Canada two months later. He was officially discharged from military service at Halifax on July 10, 1919.

Thomas Herbert immediately departed for Suva, Fiji, where he had secured employment with the Pacific Cable Board. Officials subsequently delivered his British War and Victory service medals to Sydney, Australia. No further information is available on his later life.

Remembering Private William Robert Gideon Cameron - KIA September 15/16, 1916

William Robert Gideon Cameron was the youngest of three children born to Alexander and Janet (Polson) Cameron, Guysborough Intervale, Guysborough County, on January 17, 1892. William moved west to Alberta sometime prior to 1911, obtaining a homestead grant near Peace River.

On July 2, 1915, William enlisted with the 66th Battalion at Edmonton, AB. He departed for overseas aboard SS Olympic on April 28, 1916, receiving a transfer to the 49th Battalion (Edmonton) on June 6, 1916. Five days later, William arrived at the 49th’s camp near Winnizel, Belgium, the unit having recently retired from fierce fighting at Sanctuary Wood.

The 49th relocated to the Somme region of France with the Canadian Corps two months after William’s transfer, arriving at Albert on September 13. Two days later, its soldiers entered the line near Courcelette as Canadian units prepared to attack the French village. Initially assigned to a support role behind several battalions, its Companies were called forward as the battle progress throughout the evening of September 15, fighting continuing into the following day.

Private William Robert Gideon Cameron was among the 38 49th Battalion OR killed in the fighting at Courcelette during the night of September 15/16, 1916. His remains were never recovered from the field. William’s name is inscribed on the Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, France, one of 11,285 soldiers lost on France’s battlefields, all of whom have no known final resting place.

William Robert Gideon Cameron's name on Vimy Ridge Memorial.

William Robert Gideon Cameron’s story is among the 72 detailed profiles contained in “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917,” available at bantrypublishing.ca

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Guysborough Enlistment - September 8, 1916

George Edward Conley (Connolly), was born at Glace Bay, NS on February 10, 1899. His parents, Thomas and Ada Conley, were living at Port Mulgrave, Guysborough County when George enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion at Pictou, NS on September 8, 1916. At that time, George was six months shy of his eighteenth birthday.

George departed Nova Scotia with No. 2 Construction Battalion on March 25, 1917 and arrived at Liverpool, England two weeks later. He proceeded to France with his unit on May 17, 1917, spending his entire overseas service working alongside Canadian Forestry Corps units at Jura District, close to the French border with Switzerland.

Upon returning to Canada, George was discharged from military service on February 15, 1919 and returned to Glace Bay, where he worked in the local coal mines and married Ida Jane Talbot in 1929. Later in life, George relocated to the Mulgrave, joining the local Royal Canadian Legion in 1955. He passed away on March 26, 1963.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Remembering Lance Corporal William George Hall - KIA September 3, 1916

William George Hall was born at Leighton, England on January 24, 1897. His mother, Eliza Hodgson, a native of Country Harbour, Guysborough County, married George Hodgson, an English soldier, at Halifax in 1894. The couple subsequently returned to England, where William was born. A second child, a daughter Laura, later joined the family. After George’s passing, Eliza returned to the Country Harbour area, marrying Arthur C. Giffin, a local widower, in 1913. Laura later married Clarence O’Hara, an Isaac’s Harbour sea captain, in 1916.

Lance Corporal William George Hall
William enlisted with the 64th Battalion (Maritime Provinces) at Sussex, NB on August 23, 1915. Promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal in January 1916, William departed Halifax with the 64th on March 31, 1916, landing in England nine days later. When the unit was disbanded shortly after its overseas arrival, William “reverted to ranks” to hasten a transfer to another battalion.

On July 5, 1916, William was assigned to the 2nd Battalion (Central Ontario & Quebec) and departed for the Canadian Base Depot at Le Havre, France the following day. He joined his new unit in the field six weeks later, while the battalion was training at Nordausques, France. The 2nd departed for the Somme region of France on August 28, arriving at Albert three days later.

On September 1, the 2nd Battalion relieved Australian soldiers in the front trenches near Bapaume, its war diary reporting heavy artillery shelling throughout the brief tour. Private William George Hall was amongst the battalion’s 25 OR fatalities, killed by German artillery fire on September 3, 1916, his third day of service in the line. He was laid to rest in the 2nd Canadian Cemetery, Sunken Road, Contalmaison, France.


A detailed version of William’s story is contained in “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917,” available online at bantrypublishing.ca .

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Guysborough Enlistments - August 28 & 29, 1916

Three Guysborough County natives enlisted for service with No. 2 Construction Battalion on August 28 and 29, 1916.


1. Michael Redmond Elms was born at Upper Big Tracadie, Guysborough County on May 26, 1895, the son of John and Henrietta “Etta” Elms. He was working in the baggage room of North St. Station, Halifax, when he enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion on August 28, 1916.


2. David Borden was born at Upper Big Tracadie, Guysborough County on April 2, 1882, son of Lillian (Lydia) Borden. He enlisted with No. 2 Constuction Battalion at Halifax on August 29, 1916 and was married (wife’s name Ida) at the time of his enlistment.


3. Alexander Elms was born at Antigonish on February 28, the son of Mary Elms. The family had connections to the Upper Big Tracadie, Guysborough County area. Alexander enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion at Halifax on August 29, 1916.


All three recruits made their way to the battalion’s headquarters at Pictou, relocating with their comrades in September 1916 to Truro, where Alexander was briefly hospitalized for treatment of “Bell’s paralysis” in early December 1916, but made a complete recovery.

On March 25, 1917, No. 2 Construction Battalion boarded SS Southland at Halifax and departed for England, arriving on April 7. Alexander was admitted to the Canadian Military Hospital, Eastbourne, with a case of measles on April 21, but discharged to duty on May 5. All three proceeded to France with their unit on May 17, travelling to the La Joux forest near the French border with Switzerland and commencing service with Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC) units in the Jura District.

While Michael and David remained at Jura throughout the war, Alexander was part of a group of No. 2 Construction personnel transferred to CFC operations in the Alçenon District (Normandy) on December 31, 1917. The trio’s service in France was “without incident,” with the exception of Michael’s hospitalization for 12 days in mid-May 1918 with a “contusion” to his right foot.

No. 2 Construction personnel returned to England on December 14, 1918 and departed for Canada aboard SS Empress of Britain on January 12, 1919, arriving at Halifax ten days later. Michael Redmond Elms was discharged from military service on February 12, 1919. He found employment as a “sleeping car porter” on the Intercolonial Railroad and married Florence Williams at New Glasgow before year’s end. No further information is available on his later life.

David Borden was discharged at Halifax on February 15, 1919. Canadian officials later dispatched his service medals to Saint John, NB in 1922, suggesting that he was living there at the time. According to his military service record, he passed away on June 7, 1958. No further details are available on his post-war life.

Alexander Elms was discharged at Halifax on February 13, 1919. He married Bessie Blackburn at Halifax later that year. Alexander eventually returned to the Upper Big Tracadie area, where he passed away in 1984 and was laid to rest in the United Baptist Church Cemetery.

Alexander Elms' headstone, United Baptist Church Cemetery.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Guysborough Enlistment - August 22, 1916

Joseph Palmer Clyke was born at Sherbrooke, Guysborough County on May 24, 1881, the son of Martin and Elizabeth Clyke. Both parents were deceased at the time of his enlistment. Joseph attested with No. 2 Construction Battalion at Truro, NS on August 22, 1916. Initially discharged as “medically unfit” due to “defective vision,” Joseph re-enlisted at Truro on February 2, 1917 and succeeded in passing the required medical examination.

Married with four children—two boys and two girls—at the time of enlistment, Joseph departed for England with No. 2 Construction aboard SS Southland on March 25, 1917, landing in England two weeks later. He proceeded to France with a large detachment of No. 2 Construction personnel on May 17, 1917 and proceed to the Canadian Forestry Corps’ Jura District, where he worked in its forestry and lumber operations for the duration of the war.

Joseph returned to England with No. 2 Construction on December 14, 1918 and departed for Canada aboard SS Aquitaine one month later. Following his discharge from military service at Halifax on February 13, 1919, he and his family relocated to Springhill, where Joseph worked in the local coal mines.


Joseph’s wife, Rachel Annie (Conley), passed away in 1925. The following year, he married Eliza Bell (Gero) Churnley, also a widow. Joseph retired in 1945 and passed away at Springhill on April 17, 1953 and was laid to rest in Hillside Cemetery, Springhill, NS.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Guysborough Enlistments - August 18, 1916

Two Guysborough County natives enlisted for overseas service with CEF units on August 18, 1916.

1. James Desmond was born on August 1, 1897 at Guysborough, the son of Samuel Desmond. Both of James’ parents were deceased at the time of his enlistment with No. 2 Construction Battalion at Pictou, NS on August 18, 1916. A teamster by trade, he listed his grandmother, Mrs. Sarah Desmond, Guysborough, as his next of kin.

James departed Nova Scotia with No. 2 Construction Battalion on March 28, 1917 aboard SS Southland and arrived in England on April 7. Six weeks later, he crossed the English Channel to France with No. 2 Construction and followed the unit to the Canadian Forestry Corps’ operations in Jura District, near the Swiss border, where its personnel commenced work in the CFC’s forest and lumber mill operations. James was part of a detachment transferred in December 1917 to No. 1 Canadian Forestry Corps District, Alençon, where he and his comrades assisted in logging the Normandy forests.


Following the November 11, 1918 Armistice, No. 2 Construction returned to England on December 14 and departed for Canada early in the New Year aboard SS Empress of Britain. The unit arrived in Halifax on January 22, 1919 and James was discharged from military service on February 15, 1919. James’ post-military life was cut short by illness. Stricken with pulmonary tuberculosis within months of his discharge, he passed away at Pictou, NS on August 12, 1919 and was laid to rest at Truro, NS.


2. Austin Kiley was born at Hazel Hill, Guysborough County on January 1, 1892, son of William and Mary Ann (Boudreau) Kiley. A steel worker by occupation, Austin enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at New Glasgow, NS on August 18, 1916. Austin has served for an unspecified period of time with the 94th Victoria Regiment (Argyll Highlanders), a local militia unit whose soldiers guarded key facilities in and around Canso following the outbreak of the war.

Austin was transferred to the 85th Battalion prior to departing for England with the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade on October 13, 1916. Shortly after arriving overseas, however, he was transferred to the 11th Canadian Training Brigade, Hastings, for permanent base duty. Admitted to Bramshott Military Hospital for treatment of appendicitis on March 21, 1917, Austin was transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion—the unit servicing Nova Scotia battalions at the front lines—on May 25, 1917.

Several months later, medical issues eliminated any possibility of Austin serving at the front. He suffered from myalgia, particularly in his back and right side, and developed significant sores on his feet from marching in military boots. A pre-war injury—he severely fractured his index finger when his right hand was caught in a rock crusher—also affected his dexterity.

While in England, Austin met Isabella Forbes and received permission to marry on January 21, 1918. In early March, Austin was transferred to the Canadian Base at Buxton, where he awaited transport to Canada. He departed on April 9, 1918 and spent two months with the 6th Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment, before receiving a medical discharge from military service on June 18, 1918.

Austin’s young bride followed him home to Canada, the couple initially settling in Sydney, NS. They relocated to the United States shortly afterward, taking up residence at Hillside, Union, New Jersey, where Austin initially worked as a railway brakeman and later as a pipe fitter. He and Isabella raised four children—three sons and one daughter—in their family home. Austin Kiley passed away in New Jersey on September 23, 1956.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Guysborough Enlistments - August 12, 1916

Two Guysborough County natives enlisted for service with Canadian Expeditionary Force units on August 12, 1916.

1. Matthew McGrath “Mack” Manson, born at Sherbrooke on May 30, 1899, son of Francis G. and Agnes (McGrath) Manson, enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at Camp Aldershot, NS. He never disguised his age of seventeen at enlistment and therefore remained in England until after his nineteenth birthday. Mack later served in France with the 85th Battalion during the later stages of the war. A detailed summary of his family background, war experience and post-war life is available elsewhere on this blog.

Pte. Matthew McGrath "Mack" Manson.

2. Frederik Hilton Paget, born at Hazel Hill on September 2, 1898, son of Frederick William and Eliza Maude (White) Paget, attested for overseas service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force’s Canadian Engineers at Canso, NS. A civil engineer at the time of his enlistment, Hilton received the commissioned rank of Lieutenant. No further information is available on his war service.

Post-war, Hilton relocated to San Francisco, California, where his mother was residing. Hilton enlisted at the University of California, Berkeley, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering in December 1920. He married twice (Gladys & Muriel) and had one son, Curtis Hilton.

Hilton worked with survey crews in California’s mountains. He passed away at Trinity, California on September 16, 1949 and was laid to rest in the Odd Fellows Lawn Cemetery & Mausoleum, Sacramento, California.


Monday, 8 August 2016

Guysborough Enlistment - August 8, 1916

Alexander Benjamin Elms was born at Tracadie, Guysborough County on March 14, 1897, the son of Benjamin and Sarah Elms. Alexander enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion at Truro, NS on August 8, 1916. He arrived in England with the unit on April 7, 1917 and departed for France five weeks later.

Alexander served with the No. 2 Construction detachment dispatched to the Canadian Forestry Corps’s operation in the Jura District of France, close to the Swiss border. He returned to England with his comrades on December 14, 1918 and departed for Canada on February 20, 1919. The unit arrived at Halifax on March 1 and Alexander was formally discharged from military service on April 14, 1919.

Alexander never married, working as a labourer in various Nova Scotia communities. Alexander became ill in late 1929, and was admitted to Camp Hill Hospital, Halifax, suffering from chronic nephritis. He passed away in hospital, the result of heart failure, on January 19, 1930.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Guysborough County Enlistments - August 2, 1916

Two Guysborough County natives enlisted with No. 8 Siege Battery at Halifax, NS on August 2, 1916.

1. Ellis Howard Barss was born at Hazel Hill, Guysborough County on February 28, 1893, son of Robert and Frances Barss. Ellis served with No. 2 Company, Royal Canadian Garrison Artillery, Halifax, from April 11 to August 2, 1916, at which time he enlisted for overseas service with No. 8 Siege Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery (RCA).

Ellis departed Canada on September 21, 1916 and arrived at Liverpool, England two weeks later. After spending the winter in England, he crossed the English Channel to France on March 21, 1917, at which time his unit was re-designated No. 9 Siege Battery. Ellis was promoted of the rank of Bombardier on August 6, 1917, advancing to the rank of Corporal on March 1, 1918.

Ellis served in the forward area with No. 9 Siege Battery until September 24, 1918, at which time he returned to England for duty with the RCA’ Composite Brigade. He was appointed Acting Sergeant on November 1, 1918, remaining in England until February 1, 1919, at which time he departed for Canada. Ellis was discharged from military service at Halifax on March 1919.

Following the war, Ellis relocated to Dilke, Saskatchewan, where he took out a homestead and married Mary Alexandria Waddell in 1922. The couple subsequently raised a family of seven children: Robert Ellis, Margaret Mary, David Harold, Frances Elizabeth (Betty), twins Donald Allan and Douglas Bruce, and Dorothy Jean. The couple lived at Dilke until October 1948, when they sold their farm and moved to Regina, SK. Ellis Howard Barss passed away there on July 18, 1960.

2. Malcolm McKenzie was born at White Head, Guysborough County on June 24, 1898, the son of George Rufus and Etta McKenzie. Malcolm enlisted with No. 8 Siege Battery at Halifax alongside Ellis Barss, as the two men were assigned consecutive service numbers. No additional information is available on Malcolm’s military service or post-war life at the time of this posting.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Remembering Private John Kenneth MacDonald - KIA July 30, 1916

John Kenneth MacDonald was born at Caledonia, Guysborough County on July 23, 1892, the fourth child and second son born to James Cumming and Margaret Annabelle “Maggie” (McQuarrie) MacDonald. Two of Kenneth’s older siblings—including his only brother, Wallace—died of meningitis during childhood.

In 1905, the family moved to Sunny Brae, where Kenneth attended school and learning the trade of saddler at a local harness shop operated by his second cousin, Thomas M. Chisholm. After the outbreak of the First World War, Kenneth enlisted with the 78th Highland Regiment (Pictou Highlanders), a local militia regiment, and was part of a detachment assigned to guard the trans-Atlantic cable facilities at Canso, Guysborough County.
Private John Kenneth MacDonald.
Kenneth subsequently journeyed to Sussex, NB in late September 1915, spending one month training with the 64th Battalion (Maritime Provinces). He did not attest for overseas service with the unit at the time, instead returning to Sunny Brae, where he married Christina “Christy” Bousfield on January 20, 1916. Less than two weeks later, he travelled to Halifax and attested for overseas service with the 64th Battalion on February 1, 1916.

The 64th was dissolved shortly after arriving in England. Kenneth was subsequently transferred to the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia) and arrived at his new unit’s camp in Belgium’s Ypres Salient on July 13, 1916. He entered the trenches near Vierstraat, Belgium for his first “tour” on the night of July 23/24.

Tragically, Kenneth’s time in the line was brief. On July 30, 1916 he was killed in action, his “circumstances of casualty” card describing the incident: “While on duty at a listening post[,] he was shot through the head by a sniper’s bullet and instantly killed.” Kenneth was laid to rest in Ridgewood Military Cemetery, near Dickebusch, Belgium. His young widow, Christy, never re-married, passing away in the home of her younger sister at New Westminster, BC in 1969.

Pte. John Kenneth MacDonald's final resting place.
Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia: 1915 - 1917” contains a detailed description of Kenneth’s family background and military service. The book is available for purchase at Bantry Publishing’s website.

Photograph of John Kenneth MacDonald courtesy of his nephew, Clyde F. Macdonald, New Glasgow, NS.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Guysborough County CEF Enlistments - July 29, 1916

Two Guysborough County natives enlisted with Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) units on July 29, 1916:


1. Frederick Benoit (Benight) was born on February 10, 1896 to Lemuel and Annie (Boggs) Benoit of Wine Harbour, Guysborough County. Fred served with the Royal Canadian Engineers unit at Halifax, NS from July 3, 1915 to July 25, 1916, at which time he was discharged for medical reasons. Determined to serve overseas, four days later, Fred enlisted with the 237th Battalion (American Legion) at Halifax, NS.

One of several controversial units recruited mainly in the United States, the battalion had been recruited in the Toronto area and was encamped at Aldershot, NS at the time of Fred’s enlistment. The 237th never left Canada, its ranks absorbed into the 97th Battalion—another “American Legion” unit—in mid-September 1916. Fred arrived in England with his new unit, only to be transferred to the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) on October 21, following the 97th’s dissolution.


Fred crossed the English Channel to France the day following his transfer, serving in the line with the RCR until late December 1916, when he was hospitalized with pneumonia. He was subsequently invalided to England and spent the next ten months recovering, returning to the RCR’s ranks on October 26, 1917.

Fred served the remainder of the war in France and Belgium with the RCR, returning to England on February 11, 1919 and departing for Canada on March 1. Two weeks later, he was discharged from military service and returned to his parents’ Wine Harbour home.

Fred married Esther May Shields, a native of Shelburne, at Halifax on April 17, 1924. The couple subsequently raised a family of ten children—one son and nine daughters. Two other sons died in infancy.


2. Charles Edwin “Charlie” Smith was born on December 9, 1895 to Robert and Janet (McKenzie) Smith of Upper Springfield, Guysborough County. He enlisted with the Headquarters Company, 4th Divisional Train at Halifax. His occupation at the time—Charlie had worked as a teamster—would be to good use, hauling supplies to the front lines.

Pte. Charles Edwin "Charlie" Smith.
Charlie departed Canada on June 28, 1916, but health issues interrupted his journey to France shortly after his arrival in England. Charlie was first hospitalized with a case of mumps and later contracted the measles. As a result, he did not cross the English Channel to the front lines until January 14, 1917.

Pte. Charlie Smith.
Charlie was assigned to 3rd Canadian Divisional Train, where his teamster skills were put to good use. On June 22, 1917, he was attached to No. 10 Canadian Field Ambulance (CFA), remaining with this unit for the remainder of the war. Charlie received 14 days’ leave to the United Kingdom on November 16, 1917, rejoining No. 10 CFA upon his return.

At some point during his time in England—perhaps his first months overseas, while recuperating in hospital—Charlie met Agnes Jane Sharp. Less than three weeks after the Armistice ended the fighting at the front, Charlie received another 14 days leave to the United Kingdom, with permission to marry. He and Agnes were wed at Kirkdale, West Derby, England on December 9, 1918. Officials granted Charlie four additional days’ leave in light of his recent wedding, allowing him to rejoin No. 10 CFA in France on December 20.

Agnes Jane Sharp

Charlie subsequently returned to England on February 23, 1919, departing for Canada with his new bride on September 6, 1919. The couple travelled west, destined for Edmonton, AB. The couple also resided in Saskatchewan for a number of years, raising a family of seven children. Charlie also enlisted with the Veterans’ Home Guard during the Second World War. He passed away at Edmonton, AB on May 19, 1989 and was laid to rest at Lloydminster, SK.

Charlie Smith in Second World War uniform.
Charlie’s older brother, John Robert “Jack” Smith, also enlisted for service during the First World War, serving in France and Belgium with two pioneer battalions and 3rd Canadian Divisional Train. Jack’s detailed story is available elsewhere on this blog.